The Yin and Yang of Health and Wellness

by Rick Ricketson and Susan H. Larkin, December 13, 2012

We, as a global village of the human species, must interact with each other. We depend upon each other and the world we live in order to survive in some semblance of peace and harmony. As such, we focus a great amount of time devoted to the pursuit of our health and wellness. We use those terms somewhat indiscriminately. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is defined as, “…a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity1. [Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization, 1946]. Note that, according to this definition, it is possible to maintain health even when suffering from an affliction. For example, Traditional Chinese Medicine has always focused upon the cooperative nature of boy and spirit. 

How we respond physically, mentally, and socially when our lives are “out of balance” as a result of “dis-ease” clearly affects our health. Western medicine has for many years failed to incorporate all of these aspects in determining the status of one’s health Following the paths of Walter Cannon in defining the term homeostasis2 [W Cannon. The Wisdom of the Body] and Hans Selye’s studies on the general adaptation response, George Solomon in 1964 published his landmark article entitled, “Emotions, immunity, and disease: a speculative theoretical integration.”3 [GF Solomon; Emotions, immunity, and disease: a speculative theoretical integration].  Recognizing the interrelationship of stress, emotion, and immunologic dysfunction in autoimmunity, he identified the association and termed it “psychoimmunology.” By 1974, a connection between the “mind” (psychoneuroimmunology) and the immune system was reported after Saccharin/Cytoxan (an immunosuppressant) taste-conditioned rats became immunosuppressed and died in the absence of Cytoxan4 [R Ader; Behaviorally conditioned immunosuppression].  Now in 2012, that link between stress and dis-ease has been established in depression, our response to infectious pathogens, asthma, back pain, arrhythmias, fatigue, headaches, HTN, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, and progression of HIV related complications in infected individuals.

So now, what about the concept of wellness? Are they not one in the same? The answer to that is, of course, is there must be some complement to health that only wellness provides. A cursory journey through the National Center for Biotechnology and Information’s PubMed database5 using the term “Wellness” as a search query resulted in 118,433 relevant hits! The topics ranged from, “Paper modified with ZnO Nanorods6 and “The Cultural Construction of Mental Illness in Prison: A Perfect Storm of Pathology”, 7 to “Injection of Vaseline under Penis Skin for the Purpose of Penis Augmentation8.  All things considered, none of those studies was likely to clear the fog in defining wellness. I have routinely seen wellness defined as, “…a state of acceptance or satisfaction with our present condition.” In light of the definition of Health discussed above ,i.e., the ability to accept our current condition and not merely in the absence of disease or infirmity, it would be reasonable that we should maintain a level of acceptance regardless of our current state of health in order to achieve physical, mental, and social well-being.


Another acceptable definition of wellness was offered by Charles “Chuck” Corbin [CB Corbin; Concepts of Fitness and Wellness: A Comprehensive Lifestyle Approach.]9   He expanded the term to include a “multidimensional state of being describing the existence of positive health in an individual as exemplified by quality of life and a sense of well-being.” Whereas health implies a certain sense of passivity inherent in its achievement, wellness suggests active participation in reaching the ultimate state of well-being. If we are going to make healthy choices, there must be by necessity a process of insightful awareness of our current condition. We should all be aware of the requirements for physical activity, eating food with a certain nutrient value, and avoidance of harmful environmental pathogens if we are to achieve Health and Wellness.


  1. Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization, New York, 19-22 June, 1946
  2. W Cannon. The Wisdom of the Body. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1939
  3. Solomon GF, Moos RH. Emotions, immunity, and disease: a speculative theoretical integration. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1964; 11: 657–74
  4. R Ader and N Cohen. Behaviorally conditioned immunosuppression. Psychosomatic Medicine, Vol. 37, Issue 4, 333-340
  5. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).
  6. Jaisai M, Baruah S, Dutta J. Paper modified with ZnO Nanorods – antimicrobial studies. Nanotechnol. 2012;3:684-91. doi: 10.3762/bjnano.3.78. E pub 2012 Oct 11. PMID:  23213632     [PubMed – in process]
  7. Galanek JD. The Cultural Construction of Mental Illness in Prison: A Perfect Storm of Pathology. Cult Med Psychiatry. 2012 Dec 2
  8. Karakan T, Ersoy E, Hasçiçek M, Ozgür BC, Ozcan S, Aydın A. Injection of Vaseline under Penis Skin for the Purpose of Penis Augmentation.  . Case Rep Urol. 2012; 2012:510612. doi: 10.1155/2012/510612. Epub 2012 Nov 19. PMID:23213616 [PubMed]
  9. CB Corbin, G Welk, W Corbin, and K Welk. Concepts of Fitness and Wellness: A Comprehensive Lifestyle Approach. Oct 6, 2010